The Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation to ban gender-affirming care for minors. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Tennessee House Republicans have passed controversial legislation to ban gender-affirming medical care for minors.
House Bill 1 passed the state's Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday in a 77-16, and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee.
"Protecting children is a priority," State Rep. Jason Zachary tweeted after the bill passed.
The state's Senate similar voted 26-6 in favor of the bill on Feb. 13.
The bill specifies that it prohibits healthcare, both surgical and pharmaceutical, such as puberty blockers, that "treat a physical or chemical abnormality present in a minor that is inconsistent with the normal development of a human being of the minor's sex."
Exceptions are in place if a patient had begun gender-affirming healthcare prior to the bill's July 1 start date if the treating physician makes a written certification that ending the procedure would be harmful to the minor.
Consequences for violating the law could result in civil financial penalties for the offending healthcare provider.
The bill was passed as Republicans nationwide target gender-affirming medical care for minors, despite major medial associations in favor of minors receiving such treatment.
The effort has received strong pushback from the medical community, which has called on Republicans to leave decisions on medical care to physicians.
The American Medical Association, the United States' largest medical group, has said "it is inappropriate and harmful for any state to legislatively dictate that certain transition-related services are never appropriate and limit the range of options physicians and families may consider when making decision for pediatric patients."
The American Academy of Pediatrists has also said it and its organizations "strongly oppose any legislation that would discriminate against gender-divers individuals, including children and adolescents."
Civil and human rights organizations were quick to condemn the passing of the bill on Thursday as an attack on transgender and LGBTQ people.
"This attempt by radical politicians in Tennessee to ban gender-affirming care is only the latest effort in their war against the LGBTQ+ community, especially against transgender kids," Cathryn Oakley, Human Rights Campaign state legislative director and senior counsel, said in a statement, while stating Tennessee has introduced more anti-LGBTQ legislation than any other state.
"These extremists lawmakers have intentionally made life harder and more dangerous for trans kids."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, its parent branch and Lambda Legal have vowed to challenge the law in court if the governor Lee fails to veto it.
"All Tennesseans should have access to healthcare they need to survive and thrive," Lucas Cameron-Vaughn, ACLU-TN staff attorney, said in a statement.
"Gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth is safe, necessary, effective and often life-saving. Legislators are risking trans young people's health, wellbeing and safety with this dangerous legislation."